12 Engineering Writing Tips You Need to Know

There are 12 engineering writing tips every engineer needs to know. Because writing is essential in almost every engineering position.

It might surprise you, but engineers write a lot – and not just technical writing, either. This applies to all types of engineers, regardless of your position.

In fact, every 10x engineer I know is a skilled writer. And guess what? Writing is often a hidden qualification for many high-paying jobs. Here are just a few examples of when you might need to flex your writing skills:

  • Emailing clients, subcontractors, vendors, and managers
  • Writing memos, reports, manuals, specs, and proposals
  • Documenting how someone can (and can’t) use your device or equipment
  • Editing the writing of other engineers
  • Customer support
  • Pursuing funding for a business

But writing isn’t just important for your career – it’s also a fantastic way to grow personally. When you write about a complex subject, you’re forced to research and fill in your knowledge gaps. It’s a great way to truly understand a topic.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the 12 writing tips that every engineer should know!

#1 Read and read some more

engineering writing tips to become pro technical writer

I highly recommend diving into some technical writing. Trust me, it’s a total game-changer! Here’s what you can learn:

  • How to structure your sentences
  • What type of content to include
  • The level of detail to use

And let’s be real, nobody has time for fluff talk in technical writing. That’s why it’s essential to get straight to the point.

Now, here’s a little secret: almost all technical writing takes you straight to the heart of the matter. No one reads technical writing for entertainment, you read it to learn something and then move on.

So where can you find good examples of technical writing? Start by dusting off those old textbooks from your school days. Trust me, they’re not as boring as you remember. And if you really want to up your game, read manuals. Every device and piece of equipment has one, and they’re chock-full of technical writing goodness. You can even find some online if you search around. Check out Square D’s manuals on switchboards, for example.

The more you read this type of writing, the better your own writing will become. Plus, seeing how different people approach technical writing can be really helpful. You can pick and choose your favorite parts from different writing styles and create your own unique voice.

#2 Keep your audience in mind

When I write, I always keep my readers in mind. It’s important to ask yourself, “who will read this?” This way, you can tailor your content to suit their needs and interests. Your audience ultimately determines your writing style.

Sometimes, I write for fellow engineers, and other times, I write for non-technical managers. When addressing the latter, I know I have to break down my technical jargon so they can easily digest it.

#3 Practice, practice, and practice some more

When it comes to writing, I’m a firm believer in the power of practice. I strive to write as much as possible, seizing every spare moment. Truth be told, I wasn’t the best writer in school. But, over time, I’ve learned that self-practice is the secret sauce to improvement.

Let’s keep it real—technical writing can be quite daunting. It’s like cooking a meal without any spices or seasonings. It can feel dry and emotionless. But, just like healthy eating, sometimes you need to focus on delivering the technical content your readers hunger for.

And guess what? As you keep practicing, you might even start to find joy in technical writing

#4 Keep it simple

In my experience, the key to explaining complex subjects is to keep it as straightforward as possible. You don’t need to add any fancy words or unnecessary content. As Albert Einstein once said,

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

Think about it this way: if you can convey the same idea in two paragraphs instead of four, why wouldn’t you? Personally, I’d much rather read a shorter piece than a longer one.

That’s why it’s important to read through your writing multiple times and cut out any excess. The more you simplify, the clearer your content will be. And trust me, your readers will thank you for it.

#5 Embrace the active voice

Technical writing typically doesn’t dwell in the past. That’s why it’s essential to use an active voice to create a more engaging and authoritative tone. Check out this example:

Active voice: Mount the charging station next to the building for better access.

Passive voice: Better access will be had by mounting the charging station next to the building.

The active voice version is clearer and positions you as the authority, while the passive voice can sound less trustworthy.

#6 Give your writing a thorough proofreading

A document’s first draft is never its final form. Always make sure to proofread your writing—and not just once, but multiple times.

When I write, proofreading is often the most time-consuming part of the process. It can feel never-ending, especially if you’re a perfectionist.

I recommend spacing out your read-throughs. Take a break and come back the next day with fresh eyes. This helps you spot issues you might have initially missed.

During your read-throughs, be sure to:

  • Tailor your writing to your audience
  • Remove unnecessary words and sentences
  • Add any missing technical details
  • Simplify your content
  • Clarify confusing information

#7 Give a technical writing course a go

From a young age, we’ve all taken writing classes to learn how to write in certain ways. However, there’s a big difference between being a skilled general writer and a proficient technical writer.

Mastering technical writing demands a unique skill set. That’s where specialized courses can help you become an effective technical writer. Guided by a teacher who provides constructive feedback, you’ll be able to learn faster and more efficiently.

Choose between in-person classes or online courses—whatever fits your schedule best.

#8 Ditch the broken English in text messaging

It’s crazy how many people send text messages filled with broken English these days. In fact, for some, using poor grammar has become the norm in their daily lives.

As creatures of habit, we can see the problem here. Texting with broken English can lead to bad writing habits that spill over into your formal writing. That’s why I make a conscious effort to always use proper grammar and spelling in my texts. But hey, I keep things far from boring. My messages aren’t as dry as my technical writing—I don’t want folks to think they’re chatting with a robot!

The upside of texting without broken English is that you can effortlessly transition from casual texting to formal writing, without having to switch gears from messy English to polished prose.

#9 Find your writing mojo

Passion can make all the difference in anything you do. The less passion you have for an activity, the lower the quality of your output. Writing is no exception. If you lack enthusiasm for writing, avid readers will notice.

Now, I’m not saying you need to be head over heels in love with writing. But, you shouldn’t loathe it either.

I get it—writing can be tough and even grueling at times. We all have those dry spells when nothing seems to flow, no matter how hard we try. But hey, even the best writers face this too.

To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of writing growing up. But as time went on, I started enjoying it more. The better I got at writing, the more I loved it. It’s like a positive feedback loop!

#10 Get social and step outside your comfort zone

Be more social. Chat with colleagues, clients, and engineer pals. This will push you to communicate technical ideas verbally, ultimately improving your writing.

It’s like how reading enhances your writing, or how immersing yourself in a foreign country helps you pick up the local language—and even the unique jargon.

The key, though, is to engage with people who possess excellent communication skills. Look for folks with a rich vocabulary and a deep understanding of technical subjects.

#11 Explore online tools

There’s a treasure trove of useful online writing tools out there. One fantastic free option is the Hemingway app, designed to make your writing clearer and more straightforward. Just remember to be selective with its suggestions; the app might oversimplify some sentences, which isn’t always ideal for technical writing.

Then there’s Grammarly—I’ve found that even the free version works wonders for enhancing your writing.

Lastly, Google provides some excellent courses to sharpen your technical writing skills. These courses are easy to follow and cover the fundamentals in-depth.

#12 Master your subject

When you’re well-versed in a subject, it becomes much easier to simplify complex ideas for your readers. After all, you can’t write effectively about something you know nothing about.

Simply copying material from others won’t do the trick, either. For one, not all published content is accurate—but without solid subject knowledge, you can’t verify the information. Plus, it’s tough to tailor content to your audience if you don’t truly understand the topic.

Technical writing actually helps you learn complex subjects better. Whenever I tackle a technical topic, I find myself diving deep into rabbit holes, researching subjects thoroughly to grasp them inside and out. In the end, I produce better content and pick up a bunch of cool new insights—a win-win!

Engineering writing tips conclusion

Becoming a skilled writer takes time; it won’t happen overnight, and it’s no easy feat.

It took me years and heaps of writing to get good at it. But, it was one of the best investments I ever made in myself. So, don’t back down from the challenge. The deeper your skills, the better and more valuable an engineer you’ll become.

Of these 12 engineering writing tips, which is your favorite? What engineering writing tips have worked best for you?


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